Trial was scheduled to last three days but ended early

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AZTEC — Johnson Mud has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend following jury deliberations tonight.

Mud had been arrested by the San Juan County Sheriff's Office and charged with an open count of murder in the first degree for the death of 49-year-old Roselyn Dennison.

Johnson had been accused of cutting Dennison's throat with a box cutter-type knife on Feb. 18, 2017, at a Lee Acres residence. Dennison died the next day from her injuries.

The jury trial that started Tuesday morning had been scheduled for three days, but attorneys for the prosecution and defense finished their closing arguments this afternoon.

The jury left to deliberate just before 5 p.m. and returned around 6:30 p.m. with the verdict.

More: Medical examiner: murder victim could have survived injury

Mud's attorney Christian Hatfield said the jury's decision was a reasonable compromise. He said he respected the decision.

Dustin O'Brien, San Juan County chief deputy district attorney, told The Daily Times the DA's Office believed it had the evidence to support a first-degree murder conviction. He added it was unfortunate that someone could kill another person and serve 15 years in prison, the maximum sentencing for second-degree murder.

"New Mexico's law does not take loss of live that seriously," O'Brien said.

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office issued a press release following the jury's verdict. The law enforcement agency handled the investigation into Dennison's murder.

"We hope that the family members of Roselyn Dennison can find peace during this difficult time, and we are proud of the hard work that went into this case by our incredible team of investigators," according to the press release.

During the closing arguments, deputy district attorney Michael Sanchez argued the prosecution had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mud is guilty of first-degree murder.

More: Murder trial starts for man accused of killing girlfriend

He told the jury that Mud committed premediated murder by cutting Dennison's throat and then deliberately leaving her to die by refusing to attempt to control the bleeding from the wound.

Sanchez played the audio of the 911 call and scrolled through the text of the transcript during his closing argument. During the 911 call, the 911 operator requests that Mud apply pressure to the wound to control the bleeding, but Mud refuses.

Hatfield told the jury during the closing arguments that the incident was terrible, but he recommended a conviction for voluntary manslaughter.

Hatfield said Mud believed Dennison's injury was a deep wound and significant enough that using a towel to control the bleeding wouldn't be enough to save her life.

A tentative date of Feb. 4 was set by District Judge John Dean Jr. for a sentencing hearing.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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